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Phillies have opening at shortstop

Under no circumstances — including another championship — should the Phillies sign Jimmy Rollins to a new contract. These must be the final months of his long and successful run in Philadelphia.

Under no circumstances — including another championship — should the Phillies sign Jimmy Rollins to a new contract. These must be the final months of his long and successful run in Philadelphia.



Now, I know the above words will be jarring to some fans, especially those who have become swept up in Rollins’ undeniable charms — the cool swagger, the bold words, the smooth elegance of his play at shortstop. But let’s be honest here. His best years are well behind him. His usefulness to the Phillies is already dwindling.



Rollins has always been overrated as a leadoff hitter, his swing-first approach more suited for someone further down in the lineup. In his prime, he provided serious power (30 homers in his MVP year of 2007), amazing run production (94 RBIs that year) and, of course, that brilliant defense. Now, he’s just another .260 hitter with average power and increasingly limited range.



The drama that unfolded in Yankee Stadium last weekend should provide a cautionary tale. Despite his heralded 3,000th hit, Derek Jeter is killing the Yankees, at the rate of $15 million. He can no longer play shortstop, his 37-year-old reflexes overmatched by a hard grounder in the hole. The Yankees are 14-4 with him out of the lineup in the past month versus 5-7 with him in it.



Rollins is four years younger than Jeter, but facing the same issues. He will not get faster, develop more range, steal more bases, or hit better. His biology will not allow it. He is hitting 30 points under his prime years, with far less power and sharply declining run production. How low will those numbers go if he signs another three- or four-year deal?



Unlike Jeter, Rollins isn’t nearly the positive inspiration and noble captain of the five-time champions. The sad truth is, Rollins has been a poor role model for the younger Phillies. Just ask Domonic Brown, who was benched because he chose to do what Rollins has been doing for years: not run hard to first base.



One of the hardest things for fans — or teams — to do is to identify when a player no longer makes financial sense. Rollins is at that point, in the final year of a contract paying him $8.5 million. He will expect more in his next deal, and he will not be worth it.



The writing is on the wall, if the Phillies choose to set aside sentiment and read it. Jimmy Rollins has been the face of the franchise for the best run in Phillies history. But that face has some wrinkles now. That face, sad to say, needs to be replaced.



Charles in charge of Sixers?!




Now that the sale of the Sixers is all but certain, here’s a totally off-the-wall idea that would give this comatose franchise a much-needed dose of adrenaline. Name Charles Barkley team president.



I’m totally serious. The Sixers are at the bottom in NBA attendance, and interest will be even lower by the time this insane lockout ends. What better way to make an immediate connection with the fans than to install an impossible to ignore figure like Barkley? How much more interesting would the Sixers be with that master of bombast serving as spokesman?



If you study the recent history of pro basketball in Philadelphia, what you’ll find is that only once — including the eras of Wilt Chamberlain and Julius Erving — was the team truly in the forefront of the city’s consciousness, and that was when Pat Croce was in charge. Croce has already said he wouldn’t return, so that leaves the equally loud and even more compelling Barkley as the next best choice.



Of course, Barkley should have no actual say over personnel. He is an entertaining analyst, but he is clueless when it comes to putting together a team. No, his role would be to talk about his team, spearhead promotions, spar with the media, and make people pay attention to a franchise that has become so easy to ignore.



Tragedy at the park



One of the worst stories of this year is the death of Texas fan Shannon Stone. He was just trying to be a hero for his 6-year-old son by catching a baseball flipped to him by Josh Hamilton. Stone’s plunge 20 feet below has generated such an outpouring of emotion because it could happen to any of us.



Many of us have experienced that anticipation when a ball heads in our direction. One of the biggest thrills of my life was coaxing an umpire to flip two balls my way, so I could give them to my twin grandsons, who were attending their first Phillies game while still in the womb. How many of us have baseballs on our shelves that bring back great memories like that?



In the days since the horrible tragedy in Texas, the overreactions have started. Major League Baseball is re-examining the fan-friendly gesture of players tossing baseballs to fans.



Lawyers are lining up to represent the widow of Shannon Stone. Talk-show idiots are searching for a villain.



Well, there is none.



Accidents happen — even horrific ones involving dads and their sons. Hamilton was continuing a tradition that has been encouraged since the locked-out season of 1994, a thank you to fans for returning. Stone just wanted to catch a ball for his kid. His son, Cooper, will remember his dad for doing something noble, not something reckless.



Idle thoughts from Cataldi ...



1. Know your role, Kyle.




Someone needs to remind Kyle Kendrick that he’s Kyle Kendrick. The idea that he would whine after being removed in the fifth inning last week was laughable. Kendrick is a mop-up filling in for Roy Oswalt. If he can’t see that, and shut his mouth, someone should spell it out for him.



2. Russian roulette.




The Sergei Bobrovsky era didn’t last long, did it? The Flyers are shopping their most recent franchise goaltender after one season. He’s 22 — nine years younger than the current franchise goaltender, Ilya Bryzgalov. Doesn’t it make more sense to hold onto both Russian goalies for a while?



3. Action Jackson.



Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson spent more than a month last season refusing to answer questions about his concussion, and then he got in trouble on satellite radio when he made a gay slur while responding to a question about his penis. Does that seem weird? It does to me.



– Angelo Cataldi is host of 610 WIP’s Morning Show, which airs weekdays 5:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.



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